SOLAR2008: DAY 2 – A GREEN NEW DEAL
Originally posted May 6.
There are people here at Solar2008 who have been to 15 or more American Solar Energy Society conferences. Think about it: They have been doing solar energy at the national level since at least 1993.
And yet now, with oil at $120/barrel and the evidence of global climate change undeniable by reasonable people, national leaders still resist the relatively trivial spending necessary to incentivize solar and the other New Energies. How long do these visionary folks have to keep pointing in the right direction before the crowd in D.C. that is lost figures out which way to go?
Somebody once said, “If the people will lead, leaders will follow.”
People who know how to lead are gathered here in San Diego to plan the U.S. solar energy future.
The technical definition of solar energy, by the way, includes more than just sunshine: “…radiation received and emitted by the earth…including specifically among others wind power and biomass.”
The central part of the solar plan is to keep building solar and other New Energy capacity. Right now it’s growing at 40% a year. That’s right, FORTY PER CENT PER YEAR. Think they mean business?
The other part of the plan is to get federal incentives enacted. That’s the part that hasn’t gone well so far – but there’s an election in November and polls suggest the American people aren’t going to have patience with Senators and Representatives who are contributing to the current Congressional legislative tangles preventing extension of vital Production Tax Credits and Investment Tax Credits.
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What will the New Energy industries do besides keep building capacity and fighting for federal incentives? That depends on how fast they can keep building capacity and that depends on what happens this year with the federal incentives. A speaker quoted E.L. Doctorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see farther than your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Professor Michael Dworkin was the first highlight of a highlight-filled day. A Professor of Law, a member of the Electric Power Research Institute and an authority on utilities as well as energy efficiency, Professor Dworkin summarized the now familiar trio of New Energy drivers (energy security, rising costs due to peaking supplies and global climate change) and pointed out that a big part of emissions can be controlled by tightening down on power plant emissions.
Senator Gary Hart, a University of Colorado Scholar-in-Residence and New American Fellow, spoke after Professor Dworkin. Senator Hart (D-Co) has 2 things in common with Al Gore. First, he was once (in 1988) the next President of the U.S. and, second, he is passionate about climate change.
Hart told the audience the country’s energy policy is to consume as much Persian Gulf oil as possible while sacrificing American blood and treasure to keep doing it. He pointed out that he had written in April 1980 that if the country continued to depend on Gulf oil, it would eventually have to go to war.
“It is massively immoral. It is massively immoral,” Hart said. The remedy, he said, is to end dependence on Gulf oil and move to a post-carbon economy.
Van Jones of Oakland’s Ella Baker Center ended the morning session with a talk about his experiences working in the mean streets of Oakland, CA. He told the gathered solar energy industry professionals the New Energies had moved from the innovative margin to the economic center of the U.S. energy picture. This is great news, Jones said, but it comes with a moral challenge: “Who are you going to take with you and who are you going to leave behind?”
The “pollution economy” has left some people behind, Jones asserted.
He talked about neighborhoods where showing 3-year-old kids balloons and flowers makes them cry because they only see those things at funerals and sidewalk memorials.
He vividly described his own experiences working with the economically disempowered in polluted, crumbling, and energy inefficient working class and underclass parts of inner city Oakland just across the San Francisco Bay from clean, green, upscale Marin County.
“Eco-apartheid,” he called it. But the New Energy economy now emerging changes the equation.
The much-maligned 2007 Energy Bill included, despite the Bush administration’s disinclination toward green initiatives, a Green Energy Jobs Act and an energy conservation block grant. Jones said these represent elements in a strategy to transform crises like Oakland’s into opportunity-seizing explosions of growth, sustainability and New Energy for revitalizing the nation’s decaying cities and bringing along the people now so callously left behind.
He described it as a Green New Deal. “If we’re going to beat global warming we’re going to have to weatherize millions of buildings. That’s thousands of contracts, millions of jobs…We’re going to have to put up millions of solar panels, thousands of contracts, millions of jobs…We’re going to have to build thousands of wind farms, thousands of solar farms, we’re going to have plant millions of trees…This is the work of retrofitting, rebooting, reenergizing a nation…Can we be smart enough as a country to connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done and create a green wave to lift all boats?”
Time for a Green New Deal. (click to enlarge)
Jones raised a rousing cry for the Green New Deal. “Those communities that were locked out of the last century’s pollution based economy can be locked in to this new clean and green economy. The people who were pushed down by the pollution economy can be lifted up by the clean and green economy…”
He ended by telling the Solar2008 audience the work of the solar energy industry is to create this new economy, this Green New Deal.
In a press conference following the presentations, the panel responded to a question from NewEnergyNews about reducing emissions via a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax. Senator Hart referred to his Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), an action plan for the first 100 days of the next president’s term that includes president executive orders instituting New Energy and alternative transportation incentives and a cap-and-auction system designed by Princeton economist Robert Repetto. For Senator Hart, the urgency of action on climate change is paramount.
For Professor Dworkin, it is the effectiveness of action on climate change that is important. He cryptically observed that the big emitters, utilities and power plants, are interested in TRADE but the important part of emissions reduction is the CAP. He stressed tight and tightening caps as the only way to make cap-and-trade work and it is important to prepare to do this, Dworkin says, because legislation enacting a U.S. trading system is no more than 3 to 5 years away at the very most.
Oakland’s Jones concluded the Q&A by talking about a cap-collect-and-invest system, stressing fairness in the process. He insisted we could expect a trading system to unfairly impact those at the bottom of the economic system and must therefore design in protections. “Policy is on the side of the problem makers not the problem solvers,” he said. But it is crucial to get it right, Jones summarized. Otherwise, “…it’s going to cost you the only planet we’ve got.”
When the electorate picks the right leaders, a green boom will follow. (click to enlarge)
The American Solar Energy Society’s SOLAR2008: Catch The Clean Energy Wave
The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) Day 2 plenary session speakers: Professor Michael Dworkin, Professor of Law, member of the Electric Power Research Institute and authority on utilities and energy efficiency; Senator Gary Hart, University of Colorado Scholar in Residence, New American Fellow and once (in 1988) the next President of the U.S.; Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center
Day 2 at Solar 2008, the American Solar Energy Society annual conclave covering everything important in the world of solar energy.
- Solar 2008 Day 2: May 5, 2008
- ASES was founded in 1954.
PCAP reflects the urgency and importance of the situation more than any pending legislation. (click to enlarge)
- Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108
- ASES headquarters is Boulder, CO.
- ASES is the U.S. affiliate of the International Solar Energy Society
Descriptions of the plenary sessions:
- Renewable Energy Technology Solutions: …An overview of the current state of the industry, and visions for where the industry will be in 20 years.
- Emerging Architecture: …the San Francisco Federal Building
- Emerging Transportation: The documentary Who killed the electric car? has mainstreamed interest in electric vehicles and has brought attention to the auto industry’s role in delaying the availability of clean renewably powered vehicles. Chris Paine, director of the film, and Chelsea Sexton, one of the main characters in the documentary will speak on their continuing efforts to promote vehicles that can be charged from renewable energy. Steve Heckeroth, Chair, Renewable Fuels and Sustainable Transportation Division will wrap up the plenary with a presentation the many advantages of solar electric mobility.
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- Vital new ASES report: Economic and Jobs Impacts of the Renewable and Energy Efficiency Industries
- Vital new ASES report: Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.; Potential U.S. Carbon Emissions Reductions from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency by 2030
- William Becker, Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP): “Politics is the art of compromise. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is no longer negotiating.”